Nas' 1996 single "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)," featuring guest assistance from Lauryn Hill and production from Trackmasters that samples Whodini's "Friends," peaked at No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100 (his sixth highest-charting single of all-time as a lead artist) and is certified Gold in three countries (France, Germany and New Zealand), but if Steve Stoute, Nas' former manager, had listened to Q-Tip, the record would never have seen the light of day.
During a recent appearance on the Rap Radar podcast, Stoute spoke with co-hosts Elliott Wilson and Brian "B.Dot" Miller about his conversation with the legendary Tribe MC, who was worried that Nas' remake of Kurtis Blow's 1985 record of the same name would turn the Queensbridge rapper into a pop artist.
"I love Q-Tip, and here it goes, though: when I was at the mastering session for "If I Ruled The World"—I'm a 25-year-old guy making this guy's record—Q-Tip is telling me, straight up, 'Yo, you sure you want to do this?' Like, questioning me. I'm looking at him, like, is he mad?" Stoute said.
"If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)" was selected as the lead single from It Was Written, the follow-up to Nas' classic debut Illmatic. At the time, it was Nas' most successful single on the charts and his first record to pick up mainstream radio spins across the country. It also helped to set the stage for the album's second single, "Street Dreams," which went No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart and became Nas' first RIAA certification (Gold).